A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses. [Wurst Haus opening updated]
By Ronni Newton
March 1 – meteorological spring.
I’m excited to reach this date. I’m excited to see that the snow along the edge of my driveway has melted and the daffodils, which have been growing all along, are now free to absorb any sunshine they can get. I’m hoping that they do not have to deal with another covering of snow before they bloom.
Last year our family went skiing for the day on March 1. We stopped for dinner on the way home from Vermont, and while I believe the coronavirus was one of many topics discussed at dinner, it was far from the major focus. Sam came home from college for that weekend to ski with us, and when he returned to UConn, little did he know that he’d have less than two weeks left on campus.
It’s unbelievable how the past year has unfolded since then.
For the past week, I’ve personally been excited about the March 1st date not just because it’s the day I banish the snowmen and other winter decorations from my house, but because it means I’m now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s one of the few times in recent years that I’ve been happy about being in the “over 55” age group. I was able to make an appointment to get my shot on March 12, and I have never been so happy about a prospective medical procedure.
Millie wasn’t too happy about her recent medical procedure (getting spayed), but it’s been more than a week now and she seems to have forgotten that she had recent major surgery and for the past few days has been dashing through our backyard after birds and squirrels with as much energy as ever. She’s returned to leaping onto the ottoman, and dropping one of her many stuffed hedgehogs at our feet for her favorite fetch game. If our vet is reading this, we really did try to keep her quiet, but after a few days she had other thoughts.
We got her a “zen collar” at Pet Supplies Plus to wear rather than the plastic cone, and it’s worked out well and has led to the creation of a few new nicknames.
Among the bullet points below you’ll see a few links to stories published in other media. I do that often in this column, and always include the link if there is an electronic version of the article (or a careful citation if not). I will do it in news stories as well if the original story came from another news outlet.
I always like to be the first to write about something that’s happening in West Hartford, but if I’m not, I don’t pretend otherwise. “As first reported by …” should not be a phrase of shame. I mention this because I’ve recently seen a number of news stories that have been reported on We-Ha.com being reported elsewhere, often days later, with information that appears to have been gleaned from one of my articles. There’s not much I can do about it (other than express my frustration), but please know that if the news I am reporting on was first reported elsewhere, I will give that media outlet the credit they deserve.
Our Saturday night dinner the week was at Beachland Tavern – now reopened after a winter hiatus. More about Beachland in the main part of the column below, but here ‘s what we ate! I’d never had the Salmon Cakes appetizer before and they were delicious – as was the rest of our meal.
We hope you’ve been following our Keeping it in the Community feature, which is a collaboration with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development Department.
We do not have a Keeping it in the Community section this week, but it should return next week.
Please continue to support our local businesses, and please wear your masks if you are in public places, and stay safe and healthy.
If you have information about businesses changing their operations due to COVID-19, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- [Opening date updated!] I was hoping to get a peek inside Wurst Haus, but for the reasons that are clear in the photo above, taken Sunday and sent to me by Chef/Owner Zachary Shuman, that wasn’t possible. I did catch up with Shuman last week, and he confirmed that the restaurant, located in the former McLadden’s space at 37 LaSalle Rd., is planning to open on March 31, at 5:30 p.m. Shuman and his team, which includes General Manager Josh Batista and Assistant General Manager Alyssa Blumenthal (they’re also the team that oversees Union Kitchen next door) have been working hard to get everything set for the opening – as has Jeff Webster and his crew from West Hartford-based J. Webster Properties that has been doing the renovation work. “The bones are still there,” Shuman said of the former McLadden’s, but the wall between the bar and the dining area has been removed, there are new ceiling tiles, and the windows are now wide open to the street affording a much brighter and lighter look than the intended dark atmosphere of the former Irish pub. They’re covered with plastic in the photos, but you can kind of see the antler chandeliers (they’re the same ones that are at the Student Prince in Springfield, MA and Wurst Haus in Northampton, MA, also part of the Bean Restaurant Group family) which will be a key element of the new decor, and once the floors are done, Shuman said the finishing touches will be added, including the hanging of multiple TVs. They’re hoping the Wurst Haus will become a denizen for soccer watching. I don’t want to give too much away because I’ll be doing a full feature story about Wurst Haus once it opens, but Shuman provided an overview of the menu that I can’t help but share right away, and will be particularly of interest to those who have been to Student Prince or the NoHo Wurst Haus: “The Roquefort dressing from Student Prince is coming,” he said. “Fried cheese and big pretzels are coming.” There will be three different kinds of Schnitzel (Jäger, Kaiser, and classic), with a choice of chicken, veal, or pork. Spätzle will not be an everyday item (the kitchen isn’t large enough to prepare it regularly), but dishes will be accompanied by other German favorites like buttered noodles and mashed potatoes, Shuman said. There will be Bratwurst and duck wurst, fish and chips, and a sampler that includes a jalapeño wurst. Another sampler will feature a large pretzel with each corner stuffed with a different item (like fried cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, potato pancakes). “I want everybody to have something to eat there,” Shuman said, so there will also be salads, a salmon entree, a vegan Bratwurst, and vegetarian mac and cheese. The Chauvinette, a favorite dessert cocktail at Student Prince – which involves ice cream, Galliano, Grand Marnier, and Crème de Cocoa – will be on the menu, as will 16 draft beers, with 12 of them dedicated to German beers and the rest a curated selection of local brews. Outdoor seating will initially be planned for just the sidewalk (Shuman said Union Kitchen plans to put the tables back out soon as well), but will hopefully expand to dining corrals. Future plans also include Sunday brunch and live music during the dinner hour. Way more to come!!
- I don’t have much information about this concept, but I learned about it from a post in a Facebook group that originated with a story posted by the radio station i95.com that indicated that Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen, which is a recently-launched delivery-only business started by the Food Network celebrity chef that operates out of “ghost kitchens” in either existing or empty restaurants, is now in business locally and using five Connecticut locations – including one at Westfarms! A bit more research turned up the details, including that they are using the kitchen at Brio. “Flavortown Kitchen is a delivery only restaurant featuring real-deal flavors from Chef Guy Fieri. From our signature Bourbon Brown Sugar BBQ Wings to our award winning Mac N Cheese Burger, all of Flavortown’s favorites come straight to your door step,” the website states. The casual menu includes a selection of shareable appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads, entrees, and some decadent looking desserts. Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen is now in 27 states plus the District of Columbia. Some more details about the concept and the brand can be found in this article on Deadline.com.
- As noted in the intro above, Beachland Tavern (1128 New Britain Ave. in Elmwood) has reopened for indoor dining after a few months of operating as a take-out/grab and go only location for its regular menu as well as family style meals. Beachland Group owner Chip Kohn kept Rockledge Grille and Beachland Smoke open throughout the winter, but pivoted Beachland Tavern to take-out only in early November, once the state rolled back to Phase 2B. They reopened last Tuesday, Kohn said, and he was very happy to welcome customers back – and my husband and I were very happy to have dinner there Saturday night! There is plenty of plexiglass and great spacing between the tables, and it feels very safe.
- The signs are now up (this is real, not a mock-up) and the trendy brunch/lunch Place 2 Be should be opening later this month in the former Cook and The Bear space at 50 Memorial Road in Blue Back Square! I was excited to see the progress and look forward to sharing more details soon.
- Sola Salon Studios is also preparing to open in Blue Back Square, and the contractors were in the process of hanging the signs on the space at 61 Raymond Road (former Skeleton Key/deadbolt space as well as the mobile tech repair shop). The door was open, and I could see a bevy of activity, including tiling, taking place inside. Sola Salons is a franchise business that leases fully-equipped high end salon studies to beauty professionals, and should be opening in a few weeks.
- Please note that while I reported on the planned closing of Harry’s Pizzeria & Tavern as of March 14, this does not impact the operation of Harry’s Bishops Corner (732 North Main St.) The two businesses are separately owned (they actually have common roots, but that’s a long story), and the owners of Harry’s Bishops Corner asked that we let everyone know that they remain very much ready to serve pizza to the community! The dining room has been closed, but take-out (including curbside pick-up) and delivery remain available, and indoor dining will return this spring, owners Kevin and Anne Plaut said. More information can be found on their website.
- There were a few “warmer” days last week, and while some people have continued to utilize outdoor dining throughout the winter, there were even more tables in use last Wednesday through Friday when the sun was shining. The town has been discussing plans for expanded outdoor dining again this summer, and while the process and timing have not been set, more information should be coming within a few weeks according to Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski.
- STAY on Park (207 Park Road) posted a message on Facebook last week with the exciting news that they will be expanding into a second space – STAY on Park VINTAGE – at Mongers Market in Bridgeport (1155 Railroad Ave.) where they will be open Sundays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. “This will allow us to meet new customers and fill our space with unique mid-century and vintage items! Our shop @stayonpark will still be bustling wednesday thru saturday with unique treasures new old and fun. Our popular gift Boxes have really been a hit and our furniture upcycling is busy busy! We LOVE our west Hartford shop and all of you! Keep sharing and telling people – shopping local has kept us going! We can’t thank you enough,” owner Lisa Howard posted. The Bridgeport space opens March 7.
- Fellow Park Road business BIRDCODE (120 Park Road) is also planning an expansion to Fairfield County. The Hour (and other Hearst publications) reported that BIRDCODE is planning to open a location in Darien this fall.
- Congratulations to West Hartford resident Carolyn Gitlin, who has been named chair designate of the Jewish Federation of North America’s National Women’s Philanthropy Division after a rigorous and competitive application process, the organization said in a news release. “Known for her warm, engaging, and energetic leadership, Gitlin brings extensive experience to her new position. At the national level, Gitlin currently serves on the JFNA’s Board of Trustees as an Executive Committee member and co-chairs its Large Intermediate Federation Committee. She joined JFNA’s National Women’s Philanthropy Board in 2017 and is its vice chair of education and leadership development,” the release states. Gitlin chairs the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s Board of Directors, serves on the board of the Max Cares Foundation, and previously served on Kingswood Oxford School’s board of trustees and as past president of its Parent Association. She is as a member and officer of the Tumble Brook Country Club board of directors and on the board of the Aurora Foundation for Women and Girls. “Carolyn will – especially during these challenging times – lead National Women’s Philanthropy with wisdom, enthusiasm, and strategic focus,” David Waren, Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s president and chief executive officer, said in the release. “She is certain to take the division to new heights.” Gitlin’s term will begin in June and run through June 2023. “I’m deeply humbled and excited to assume this new role,” she said. “Enriching the lives of women both locally and globally is so important to me. I very much look forward to leading the National Women’s Philanthropy Board over the next two years.”
- In their most recent issue, the Hartford Business Journal named the Power 50 – the top leaders in the Greater Hartford area who according to the HBJ news team have had the most impact on their organizations (public and private sector, education, healthcare, government) as well as the community as a whole. Some are named as a team. I’m probably going to miss some (apologies in advance), but the following (to the best of my knowledge) are either West Hartford residents or work in/are involved with a project in West Hartford: Michael and Shari Cantor, Deidre Gifford, Jay Williams, Jason Jakubowski, Rhona Free and Gregory Woodward, Ari Santiago, and Martin Kenny. Congrats to all! The complete list can be found here.
- ICYMI, freelancer Kristina Vakhman spoke to the owners of some West Hartford salons/spas last week to find out how they’ve been coping with the pandemic. Click here to read the complete story.
- This isn’t business-related, but I also wanted to give a shout out to Paul Palmer, who has been knocking it out of the park (wrong time of the year for that sports reference, but it sounds better than anything I could come up with for a winter sport) covering Conard and Hall sports. The full range of coverage can be found under the sports tab, and look for several more stories coming this week.
Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
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